Radical or Regular?

radical

Does the Bible advocate a radically missional lifestyle or a quiet, peaceful one?

I’ve often been conflicted when reading of Paul’s exemplary life of self-sacrifice and single-minded focus on spreading the Gospel at any cost.

For example, Philippians 1:20 says: “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

That life-or-death urgency that Paul brings can be discomforting to those who enjoy a quiet, peaceful life. In his book Radical, David Platt writes about that same idea, that:

“we were created for far more than a nice, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. An idea that we were created to follow One who demands radical risk and promises radical reward.”

Perhaps that means traveling to a another country and getting involved in an NGO or attempting to do missions work in North Korea or Ethiopia. Perhaps it means moving into dangerous neighborhoods of Chicago and volunteering at a youth program. Is this every American Christian’s duty?

Yet in 1 Timothy 2:2 we’re told to pray for “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your affairs, and to work with your hands.

So, which is it? Are we supposed to radically risk our lives for the sake of gospel, or is it okay to pursue a quiet and peaceful life in the suburbs?

This debate has been heating up among evangelicals for a few months. Books like David Platt’s Radical, or Shane Claiborn’s Irresistible Revolution, or the intense sermons of Francis Chan push us more toward the radical lifestyle that shuns the comforts of a middle-class lifestyle. They suggest that the model of Paul and Jesus should move us to give away our wealth, and move into the ghettos to fight poverty.

At the same time, pushing back against this single-minded intensity, evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson argues that the radical lifestyle isn’t the only way to live faithfully:

“Discovering a radical faith may mean revisiting the ways in which faith can take shape in the mundane, sans intensifiers. It almost certainly means embracing the providence of God in our witness to the world.”

Echoing this message, Anthony Bradley at the Acton Institute’s blog, writes that “Radical” Christianity can be susceptible to both legalism and narcissism.

What if the  radical life of missions in a foreign country is just a way to show that you are more committed than anyone else? What if your missions trip to Mexico was only done so you could avoid the shame of appearing like you’re not giving your life to Christ? What if it is, as Bradley says, it’s just “shamed-driven pressure to be awesome and extraordinary young adults” trying to make an immediate tangible difference in the world?

What do you think? Do you feel shame and guilt for not being “radical” enough? Do you think it’s possible to live a faithful Christian life in the suburbs?


6 Ways to Make Disciples

Caesar Kalinowski, a missionary, entrepreneur, church planter, and strategist, has some great ways to incorporation disciple-making into your life.

He suggests 6 Rhythms to use in your community. These are things that you can be intentional about, without making them additional things to add to your already-busy life.

1. Know the story – We all have a story. We must put our story into the context of God’s story, rather than the story told to us by our parents, or the media, or or boss.

2. Listening – We’re always listening to someone, but are we listening to God? We must listen to the Holy Spirit, and cultivate a rhythm of listening to God in community.

3. Celebrate – Life is living in a rhythm of celebration. Everyone has a birthday, and holidays, and graduations are over. Join that rhythm by celebrating our joy in eternal life.

4. Eat – We’re already eating every day. What if we were to have meals with people who we want to disciple?

5. Bless – Ask the Spirit to reveal to you 3 people you could bless each week. Imagine everyone in your neighborhood each blessing three people a week. It could transform a place.

6. Recreate – The rhythm of rest and work. Rest in Christ’s completed work, and then out of that, create beauty and value through our work. It’s the idea of Sabbath.

Via – The Verge


Homosexuality & Christianity: Becoming part of the solution

homosexuality_group-224x300Most of us are affected by homosexuality in some way, even aside from the nonstop news and political noise. It’s personal. But how do we think about homosexuality as Christians? Some of us feel conflicted between what our friends believe, what our pastor is saying, and what the media is saying.

That’s why we thought it would be edifying to dedicate our most recent 20s Night to discussing homosexuality and Christianity with someone who has spent time and effort studying the topic. Allison J. Althoff, who wrote the popular feature for Christianity Today, Hope for the Gay Undergrad, came to facilitate a discussion about this potentially awkward topic.

We spent time discussing what the church is doing well, what the church is doing poorly, and what we can do to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Here are some take-away points from the discussion:

1) Gay = straight. No matter what your sexual orientation, God sees us all the same. Period. The second you think you are “superior” to someone who is attracted to members of the same sex is the second you need to go wash the plank out of your eye.

2) Don’t develop canned responses. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” to someone’s questions about sexuality and Christianity. You can’t save anybody, and God will ultimately be the judge of their sins. All we’re called to do as believers is to intercede in prayer and love.
3) Admit you yourself are a broken person. Be a doormat for others struggling by opening up first and telling people why you need Jesus. Your vulnerability and authenticity will inspire others to search and reveal their hearts as well.
4) Admit your own ignorance and naivete. If you don’t know anything about homosexuality, don’t be afraid to admit it.
5) Do not pity someone for their sexual orientation. “I’m so sorry you’re gay” won’t score you points with anyone.
Read Allison’s recap of the whole event on her blog.

Christians Are . . .

Christians are

Ever since our fall into sin in Genesis 3, the effects have permeated everything and broken everything — bodies, hearts, minds. One of the effects on the mind is that there is a skewed understanding of what Christianity is about.

To some degree, our understanding is re-invented every generation; the effects of sin don’t change, but culture and sin’s pressure points do change. We are often fighting off accusations of being violent, or extremist, or close-minded. In order to address this image-problem, we can be proactive in avoiding those stereotypes when we interact with others. Sociologist and scholar Christian Smith, who wrote Lost in Translation, suggests that we can do this by being:

1. Convicted, but charitable, capable of good and constructive arguments.

2. Committed, but interested in reasonable, rigorous, fun conversations.

3. Serious, but not rigid or reactionary.

4. Evangelistic, but interested in other people not just as souls to save but as real people to learn from, as gifts for us to receive.

5. Caring about the right ideas, about truth, but interested in reciprocity.

6. Critical of the world, yet appreciative of the good in it as God’s good creation.

The 20s Mission is working to disciple and support young adults Christians as we articulate our Christian identity in the midst of many cultural changes.

If you’re in the Chicago area, come to one of our monthly events, where you can hear from other professionals and Christian leaders and discuss what it means to be a Christian in your environment.


Faith, Work and Ministry: How do I commit?

When I was in college, I decided to do something different than many of my friends and not major in theology or ministry. I sensed that some of them were focusing on Biblical studies or ministry simply because they thought it was a higher profession, or that it was rewarding to study. A ministry vocation would be more likely to ensure that one is a faithful Christian, many of us assumed.

(Of course, this idea is present among Christian colleges, while some people in secular colleges tend to view vocational ministry as “not a real job.” That is equally problematic, because the Bible teaches that ministry is a necessary job worthy of support from the church in 2 Cor. 11:7-8).

While I too felt that I was growing in my faith while studying theology, I also didn’t believe that I was called to vocational ministry. And while staying strong in your faith takes effort, the Bible teaches that Christians are called to participate by working in many vocations, not just ministry.

In a recent Relevant Magazine article by KC McGinnis noticed the same problem. Here is how he describes our responsibility to participate in many vocations:

Because all honest work displays the image of God and demonstrates His care, it is valuable even before a single co-worker comes to faith, even before a single cent is given to charity. This view of work breaks down the distinction between the ministry and the marketplace. Both become part of a larger category: God’s work.

God designed us to work, and even allows us to make work something that doesn’t sound so boring as “work” — it can be a source of joy and fulfillment as we join him in the creative and productive process. It’s also helpful to acknowledge that our job is not our whole life, and that we have obligations to our fellow Christians, friends and to ourselves.

It’s also helpful to acknowledge that our job is not our whole life, and that we have obligations to our fellow Christians, friends and to ourselves. If work is the only thing we think about day and night, that is equally a problem of balancing our priorities.

The bottom line is that God’s desire is for us to be fulfilled in finding peace with Him, with each other, and with the gifts that he gives each of us.

Which is a bigger challenge for you? Is it harder to find joy in your work, or is it harder to get away from work and enjoy other parts of life?


Who is in your community?

life-together1

 

We’re all social creatures, or as David Brooks put it “Social Animals.” We are highly influenced by the people around us, our friends, family and coworkers.

That is why Jesus set up the Church, for us to build up one another according to God’s teaching and be able to live with, and influence one another to become more like Him.

This is how Dietrich Bonohoeffer put it in his great book Life Together:

“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and In Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.”

This means:

1. Christians need each other because of Jesus Christ.

  • “God has willed that we should seek and find His living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.”
  • “The community of Christians springs solely from the Biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis of longing of Christians for one another.”

2. Christians come to one another only through Jesus Christ

  • “Christ became the Mediator and made peace with God and among men. . . . Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother.”
  • “Only in Jesus Christ are we one, only through him are we bound together.”

3. In Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.

  • “If, before we could know and wish it, we have been chosen and accepted with the whole Church in Jesus Christ, then we also belong to him in eternity with one another.”
  • “He who looks upon his brother should know that he wil be eternally united with him in Jesus Christ.”

Navigating life after college

The Navigators group over in Florida recently put up a blog about post-college life. The writer, Sammi Feliciani, shares her experience of emerging from college with big dreams but no sure plan. With the world before you, but no structure or order to navigate it is daunting. It’s easy to get paralyzed.

But when the fifty-first person asks me, “So, what’s next for you?” and writes me off as an aimless slacker based on my, “Uhh, well, I don’t really know,” answer, I think about Emily, Sam, Victoria and Nicki. These are some of the women who have poured into me over my college years. They’re ladies I have admired, learned from and imitated. I would be overjoyed to be a woman like any of them someday. But I don’t admire them because they’re perfect or because they never question or mourn or mess up or struggle. In fact, as I have seen each of them walk through death’s shadow, seen their own plans and dreams fall apart, and heard them share their hearts: the raw, real, sticky, tangled mess of lives wrecked by sin but redeemed through Christ, I’ve seen what trusting God really looks like. These women who have shepherded me didn’t always have everything together. In their moments of weakness, though, Christ’s strength was displayed most powerfully. These women brought me to Jesus, not to themselves and not to some amazing be-the-best-you-can-be life plan. He was, and is, more than enough.

When life seems to be losing its sense of order, and we encounter challenging new territory, our best bet is to look back to the rich heritage of blessings he has given us, through mentors, friends and family. God does not drop us off at the curb of life, or end after four years of undergrad. He has a plan for our lives, and that is to live with him in righteousness and peace.

Have you felt paralyzed by life after college? What have you learned about God’s faithfulness during transition?